Modern Funeral Art
THE MUSIC THAT SHOULD NOT BE
(INTERVIEW WITH VOCALIST ARNAUD SPITZ)
Q: Modern Funeral Art, or MFA, has been playing for more than 10 years, but hasn't been given a chance to leave the underground yet. So, before we talk about the new album, could you please tell us a little about each of your releases so far?
A: Almost Angels was our first and last demo-tape. Recorded in a semi-professional studio, it sounded quite good at the time, we even had a real cello part on the title track. The line-up was the same as it is today (except for the keyboards, which have now disappeared), and if you except a few amateurish moments, it already showed what MFA was all about. Then Gateways Of Slumber and Hellfire were transition releases. Our guitarist had left and we never really intended to replace him. So our long-time producer, Stephane Vanstaen played most of the guitar parts on these two releases. The result was good and it couldn't have been heavier, but Pascal being back now, the original spirit of MFA has risen again, giving us motives for working harder than we had before.
Q: What were your influences during all these years?
A: Well, though we're the best of friends, we come from different backgrounds. Pascal and Benoît were into Scandinavian death metal, black metal and doom. Carcass, Emperor and early Anathema for instance. I'm ten years older than them and was more into 70s and 80s Gothic and cold wave. Joy Division, the Virgin Prunes, you see what I mean. That's why we ended up sounding like we do, mixing ultra-heavy music with dark clean vocals. I don't know if we really stand apart or if we can be compared to Tiamat, In The Woods or Katatonia. Perhaps The Vision Bleak is closer to us than any other band.
Q: Musically I'm not 100% sure, but, lyrically, you seem to share a deep interest in HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe...
A: Yes, probably my two main influences, but you could add William Blake too. Gateways Of slumber is a quote from a poem by Lovecraft, entitled Nemesis. And of course, I wrote this song, Lovecraft Was A Liar, which can be interpreted in several ways: whether you consider that Lovecraft lied when he wrote about Cthulhu, the Necronomicon et al, or you consider he lied when he wrote to his friends that all these things did not exist at all. Up to you to make up your mind. Then Poe. Yes, The Raven inspired me. And overall, Annabel Lee. I wrote A Sepulchre By The Sea (on Hellfire) as and answer to Annabel Lee. You know the story, Annabel Lee and the narrator were in love, the angels were jealous and made the maiden die. Well, in our song, one of these angels expresses his feelings and, though he pleads guilty, demands a lesser sentence, due to mitigating circumstances.
Q: So now you're back, original line-up on board, with a brand new full-length album, Doom With A View. A word about that title?
A: Well, you know what a room with a view is. Apart from the game on words, one can easily find out several meanings to Doom With A View. Let's just say that you're doomed but not hopeless. And if you don't like it, just think it could have been worse. Gentlemen Prefer Doom, In The Mood For Doom, you get it?
Q: Do you consider yourself a true doom band?
A: Not one second! We love doom music but I doubt we belong in this genre. Not slow enough. Vocals too clean and too much melody. It's hard for me to describe the kind of music we do. Dark metal, Goth metal, heavy death rock. We'd certainly sell more records if we could be filed more easily.
Q: Let's do a track by track review of the album, if you don't mind?
A: No, I don't, but I'll be more concise about the music since I took no part in composing. I just wrote the lyrics.
Q: First song is State Of The World. Is it some kind of political comment. Are you the new Rage Against The Machine? Coming from you, that would surprise me.
A: You can say it's a political statement, but it's just about what happened a thousand and five hundred years ago, when Europe was being Christianized, by force or by conviction, and all its ancient pagan deities were being left aside.
Q: Are you pro-pagan? Do you condone the burning of churches?
A: Hey, don't go too far! We're not at war. Though Christian beliefs, and overall believers, often annoy us, I wouldn't say it was better before, when pagan gods ruled the Earth. After all, pantheism still prevails in some parts of the world, India for instance, and it doesn't seem to imply a better society and fewer inequalities. So let's make it clear: we are not pagan freaks. We are not Satanists either, but I think we'll talk about that later. Atheists? Probably, I can speak for myself, not for the other members of the band.
Q: OK, it's clearer now. Second song is Sol Invictus. The topic seems to be the same as in State Of The World. Are you fond of the Neo-folk band named Sol Invictus.
A: You're perfectly right. Same topic. The painful transition from a sunny pagan vale to a cold Christian cave. I actually wrote this text for an acoustic side project in the vein of Sol Invictus - the band, but I thought it fitted the music Pascal and Benoît had composed for this song.
Q: Third song, Alexander, who's that boy?
A: You haven't read the lyrics, have you? It's just another song about notorious occultist Crowley, who changed his Christian name Alexander, to Aleister. The song mainly deals with his childhood and formative years. You know, it's his own mother who first called him The Beast. Megatherion, 666, all that is a little too cliché, like everything about Crowley anyway but, hey, that's the way we like our metal music!
Q: Now, the fourth one, Mary Jane Kelly, is amazing. First time you unplug and do a ballad, sort of. Is it a love song?
A: All wrong! A thousand songs have been written about Mary Jane Kelly and you still don't know her. Ever heard Count Raven? Blitzkrieg? Ever read From Hell by Alan Moore? Listen, Jack the ripper presumably killed five women. Mary Kelly was the fifth. This song is her last words or, if you prefer, her first impressions after she died. It's not about any conspiracy theory surrounding Jack The Ripper. I don't really care about all that crap. Basically, this song is more about a poor woman being beaten to death. To be honest, it was inpired by Suzanne Vega's Luca.
Q: Then comes Dante In The Dusky Woods. Visions of Inferno spring in mind, all the more since the music would not be out of place on records such as In The Nightside Eclipse by Emperor, to name but one.
A: Yes, the first version we did even included black metal high-pitched vocals and growls. It was not bad but it simply was not us. Anyway, it's still the fastest and most epic song on our new album. And it was funny to mix dark epic music with vocals which are a bit soft, almost like in a lullaby.
Q: I'd like to hear it the first version one day. But, what about the words? A faithful rendering of Dante's Inferno?
A: Interpreters usually agree that when Dante wrote about being lost in a dark wood, he was allegorically speaking about suicide. And Then, Dante was guided by Roman poet Virgil through the circles of Hell, terraces of Purgatory and spheres of Paradise. I don't give him that chance. Virgil doesn't come. Instead, I advise him to follow me to the middle ring of the seventh circle of hell, where the harpies rule. In other words, to commit suicide. Please, don't get me wrong! I don't say suicide is fine. It's just a play, with two characters confronting with each other. I play the Devil's role and hope it will make you react.
Q: Now there's a trilogy. Death Code of the Devil Worshippers. Is it really a trilogy? Sounds to me more like three different songs.
A: You're right, we wrote three different songs and then found out they dealt with the same topic. Teenage suburban Satanists and their miserable lives. In the 90's, we used to listen to a lot of black metal, Emperor, Immortal, even Burzum, Mayhem or Darkthrone, but we never took that too seriously. We never partied in cemeteries, never desecrated graves, never did anything that stupid and vain. To us, black metal was just for fun. Yet, obviously, more fragile-minded teens, it would took hours to understand and explain how and why, started considering black metal as a true religion, a cause worth fighting for, and that ended in the burning of churches, opening of graves, and in rare cases, stabbing of priests, homosexuals, or even their own devil worshipping friends. Well, we don't intend to give lessons to anyone but we feel like looking at this black metal scene with a little bit of irony.
Q: Suicide pact you first. Haven't I heard that before?
A: Possibly. It was the title of an album by Irish rock band Therapy?. But none of their songs had that title so, since I found it quite funny, I allowed myself to use it.
Q: And finally, to end the record, a song for the dance floors!
A: Uh, well, not really. The intro to this song might be the only true doom moment of the album. Then powerful verses and a long classic rock guitar outro. If you can dance to that, call me, I'd like to see. And the lyrics are not very dance floor-friendly either. You know what a danse macabre is. You find most of them in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The lyrics just convey the meaning of these medieval representations of the dancing dead, which is very simple and can be summed up as “ what we were, you are, and what we are, you will be”.
Q: Ah! Couldn't you find other words to end the interview in a more positive note?
A: Definitely no!